Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Benefits of Mentoring

I’ve taken on a writing mentee. She is a woman my age who is interested in writing.

This partnership could have gone differently than it is. She’s writing and sending me her stories. She’s serious about this. That to me is the first hurdle to learning a new skill. It is one thing to say you want to do something, it is entirely another to actually get at it. Or stay with it.

The second hurdle is that I believe she has talent. Even a little bit of talent combined with a work ethic will produce a skilled writer. It’s all I had when I began.

I told her, I’d like to be the advisor to her that would I would have liked when I started writing.

Someone told me, I would be amazed, that I would learn so much by doing this.

Memories of days past are often included in the writer's process
They were right. I’ve critiqued writing, I’ve offered suggestions to writers, but this mentor/mentee relationship takes me to a whole different level. I have been challenged to accurately and helpfully show the effective way to tell stories. I’ve had to find the words to be able to share my instincts. Then those same words become a guide.

This quote sums up the experience.

“Until you can explain it, you don’t really understand it.”


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

My Library Adventures


I have a winter reading program; I’m going through my own bookshelves. There are a number of unread books that I’ve brought into my house from second hand stores or other sources of books for little money, such as the fill a bag with books for $3 deal at the library. I pick books with an eye to them being resources for writing fiction. There is no particular way this happens, but it does. Recently a book on a pretty dry subject, pardon the pun, ‘The Grasslands’, served me well with symbolic theme material for two stories. I read it all the way through and it will be a keeper. Then another book titled ‘Finding Your Perfect Work’ is designated as a dip into resource after only a few pages. I love those because the details add spark to my writing and they are full of sparks. It too is a keeper.

I love owning books as I can go to any of them whenever I want. This is one of the reasons I am less content with borrowing books. Still, I purchased a library card after years of doing without. I’ve given myself a schedule for browsing the library catalogue. I’m proceeding cautiously. I did have mixed feelings about library membership but there was a book I wanted to read but not necessarily own. That is one thing about borrowing first; I can make an informed decision about book purchases. I ordered a book and it came in.

My Corner Shelf Library
What isn’t good about borrowing became apparent quickly. I felt frantic about getting the book read. I know. It is not a real thing, I would have lots of time, renewing if necessary and all of those wonderful advantages the library membership offers. But. I still felt the pressure. So I did decide that the book isn’t one that I want to own. However it yielded a few pages I found intriguing. If I photocopy them I can own them.

I thought my plan of only borrowing one book would help and it has somewhat. I cleaned up my old ‘want to read’ lists as well. One of those lists had over fifty books about writing. When did I think I would have time for that? No wonder I feel overwhelmed by the library scene. Generally, and about more subjects than just books, I am paying attention to the actual results of my actions. I felt anxious with the borrowed book in my house. So my library use might be modified further. I’ll see how this works for me.


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Turn on the Light.

Sometimes a ‘lightbulb’ goes on. The dark becomes illuminated and you can see. I live for those moments. Does that make me unusual? I don’t know and actually it doesn’t matter, I just want to tell you about a couple of lightbulb moments.

The first came as I was gearing up to do my winter fiction writing. I looked at my time use and while I was writing a fair bit, I was not writing fiction. My fiction writing was not exactly stalled but it was so slow it wouldn’t win a race against a slug. Soon I realized I was busy with other projects for no other reasons than I started them and wanted to finish them. Do you see the same lightbulb as I did? I needed to focus on the real goal and design my routines to support that focus.

Another lightbulb moment arrived as I considered the same scene in a different way. Why was I journaling and studying and filling scribblers with non-fiction writing? Again it was a habit. It was a habit that helped me to capture thoughts in words and record those words. It helped me understand and conquer various bad habits. But now I’m confident and healthy and in a good place and I can write like a damn. There is the lightbulb again.  I can spend less time with this type of writing (maybe even eliminate it) so that I can go forward with my true joy – fiction writing.

Then, just because I was on a roll, I shone the light on my Internet use. It mostly is a form of procrastination. Oh. Hello my old friend! I’m sorry but our relationship has to change. I’ve got strategies in place that are starting to take hold.  So here’s to the lightbulb and here’s to less time in the dark!

This lunar eclipse snap reminds me that the moon is a light in the dark.


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Read On

I flip open the book. At the bottom of one chapter are these words.

Read on. There is much more ahead that will assist you in your discovery.

Wow. That’s profound. Very insightful. I love these words instantly.

I know the author is referring to the rest of his book alone, but in my estimation these words apply to matters infinitesimal.

Read on. My life is better because of my reading. I cannot emphasize this enough. I have a rather large list of books that have changed my life. (I recently bought copies of two of those books, long thought lost to me. I’m delighted to have them again.) Books have taught me to cook, to stop procrastinating, to ponder philosophies, to live better, to gain mental health, to write and probably many more things.

Just an aside - the reverse has been true as well. My reading is better because of my life. I am discerning about what I read. It doesn’t take long to know if a book is for me or not.

There is much more ahead –even at sixty plus, I feel time is on my side. Logistically this might be unprovable but by my instincts and gut, there is enough time for what I am to do.

-that will assist you in your discovery. My journey is assisted. I definitely believe that while being open and aware, I have had many moments where no other explanation (but this assistance) makes sense. I’m a learner and life is the teacher. Sometimes the wisdom will be in print on page, sometimes it will be elsewhere. The discovery continues. Read on.

Or climb on - these steps were almost 500 in number and led to the top of a cliff in Newfoundland.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

About Gleaning

Years ago I came up with the practice of ‘work-booking’. As I read philosophies or viewpoints that resonated, I would copy segments down and I would apply my own questions. You’ve probably seen companion workbooks so you likely can understand the model I used.

I believed this practice helped the words of others to become integrated into my thinking. Put this very simply I would take a statement like ‘a good plan is a good thing’ and I consider what is a ‘good’ plan, what is a ‘bad’ plan. What would it look like to have a good plan, what would I be doing? Pretty much any question that I could think of to put working clothes on the ideas, to bring them home, to make my life better, to be more aware, and to feel at ease. I became more conscious of the ‘default setting’ of me.

I remember giving myself the title ‘Seeker of Truths’. I still am that, but I no longer assume the truth is a fixed element. Your truths or my truths, the way of truth is fluid and fascinating.

Recently I noticed that I have revised how I read books.  I call what I do ‘gleaning’. Books are like a sheath of wheat being thrashed and winnowed, I look for the kernel that has the value. With the exception of words that deal with creativity, productivity or flow, I’m discerning about what I feel important to adopt as my own. Basically I am pretty satisfied with my life skills, but as a writer I am endlessly fascinated by people. Books give me a window to thoughts, philosophies and studies that are only available between the pages. There I can glean to my heart’s content.

This particular iceberg 'tipped' so the tip of the iceberg doesn't exactly mean what you think.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Do It Yourself Motivational Posters

Motivation is deeply personal. I’d add that it can be rather fleeting at times too. It’s good to have a reminder. That perhaps is where motivational posters started. Hang in there baby, says the poster with the kitten stretched precariously below the safety of his ledge. You bet. I’m hanging in there.

It stands to reason that certain motivational posters might not suit you and others are spot on. I like those that mean something to me personally and immediately or seem to be wisdom worthwhile passing on. Recently I shared the Facebook poster that said 'Be kinder than is necessary.’ That’s a good philosophy, and if it rides with me and helps me choose the kind actions it’s a good tool.

The two posters I’ve mentioned have been put together by someone else. They are generic. They lack a personal punch. So I’ve started (again*) to build my own version of the motivational poster. I have photo albums that contain 3X5 index cards. On the cards I have written key and personal motivational words. The type that inspire me. Here is a sample.

What is a small lead-in task that can be done right NOW? (The term lead-in task refers to a small assignment towards a larger goal. A little bite of the elephant, one small step etc.)

*I’ve done this in the past, building several albums of self-advice, gleaned from various books. Recently I unearthed a group of posters that I made, using my photos and a computer word art program. Fancy letterings, inserted blocks, clipart, it was a hobby for me when I could no longer do activities that required fine motor skills. Here is a sample – Five by Five  - five minutes to talk about it and then five minutes to work on a solution.  I guess that’s what I’ve just done – a five minute chat with you and then this solution of what my next blog post will be about.
One of my friends (who is very motivational) found these mushrooms for my photo efforts.


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Flow Check In

One of the reading interests that I pursue is motivation and productivity. I'm currently reading a pair of books that promise me insights into the process of flow. I don't mind slugging along, much work can be accomplished but to tap into flow is well worth it. Here are some notes from my action plan book.
I began with the first of nine suggestions from one of my books. The idea is to monitor your life at random to see if there are patterns to ‘flow’ that can be used to plan flow opportunities. The official experiment involves an external cue at random times that signals a ‘check-in’. The questions to answer at the cue involve what are you doing, what are you feeling, are you in flow?

I pondered what could be my external random signal? Phone calls come in, but they totally interrupt whatever is going on. No. That wouldn’t do. Then it came to me. The decision was to use the times when my husband is muttering to himself. Or talking to me when I am in another room. That’s definitely a thing that happens often enough and also random enough to serve my purpose.

Here’s what happened. I am cognizant that I might get the cue at any moment and why wouldn’t I want to be in flow when it happened. Which means I better get to the keyboard. Which I am and there it is; the cue. What am I doing? Writing. What am I feeling? Productive and amused. Am I in flow? Yes.

The doorway to flow?